Saturday, 10 October 2009

German Potato Salad - Warm Comfort Food for Autumn

There's a chill in the air and some mornings reveal a icy coating of frost on the grass these days.
It can only mean one thing: Autumn is here and with it, comes the warm comfort food we love.

Today I discovered some bacon near its sell-by date and decided it was time to make some German Potato Salad. If you have never had it, but if you like the sweet and sour sauces, you will love this simple, delicious dish.
There are only three main ingredients: potatoes, bacon, & onions, so you will probably have them in your larder right now.
You will also need some corn starch (corn flour), cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.

It is a simple recipe but with many steps so it does take some time to complete.
If you don't have a lot of time, all in one go, then simply cook your bacon today and finish the rest tomorrow. But make sure to save the frying pan in which you cooked the bacon - including the bits - don't wash it!
Also, this dish is perfect to make ahead one day to give the flavours time to all blend together, so it works well for company. Simply reheat it on very low heat or place it in a slow cooker.
I will place the recipe at the bottom of this post and show you how it's made beginning here.
Mine came out superbly today - I do hope yours will, too!

Chop the onions and set aside.
Mix about 2 tablespoons of cornflour with some water to make a thin paste and set aside.

Select some new potatoes or salad potatoes to use. Waxy ones work best.
Scrub and remove eyes and imperfections. (I leave the skin on but you can remove it all if you wish)
Boil until just barely done - 'al dente' so-to-speak - they continue cooking even after the heat is off so it is best to remove them from the water and the heat once they have finished cooking.
The reason for keeping them as firm as can be is so that later they don't break apart in the sauce. It is really difficult to get it right so if they are over done, don't worry about it, they will still taste fine.
Place the potatoes to cool in a colander and rinse out the pan they cooked in.

Once cool, you can either slice the potatoes or cut them into quarters to have ready to mix in the sauce in the last step.

While the potatoes are boiling, cook your bacon. Place the pieces to drain on paper towels.
Cool your pan when finished cooking the bacon and pour away most of the fat from the pan, being careful to keep the bottom coated with a little bit of it.

Place the bacon pan back on the stove and warm it up again. Put the chopped onions into it and simmer until they are translucent.
Break up the cooked bacon and add the bits to the sauteed onions. Stir well.

Now pour the vinegar into the pan with the onions and bacon and bring to a boil, stirring all the time and cleaning the wee bits off the bottom of the pan with the vinegar/sugar mixture.

Pour the contents into the larger pan in which you cooked the potatoes.

Add the water and bring to a boil.

Add some cornflour paste you made earlier, a little bit at a time, until the mixture thickens.
Once it reaches a sauce-like consistency, and is boiling again, stir constantly for at least one minute before reducing the heat to a slow simmer. It is important to do this stirring/boiling for a minimum of one minute to eliminate the starchy taste from the cornflour.

This is another tricky bit: how do you know when the sauce is too thick or too thin?
It is impossible to get it perfect every time, but what I find that helps is to watch the side of your pan. If the sauce you are stirring seems to coat the side of your pan, it will also coat the potatoes, too. You can see this in the picture, below.

Add the quartered/sliced potatoes to the sauce. Stir and heat through being careful not to have the stove heat on too high and burn the mixture. It is finished! Yeah!

Some comments:
  • I never use as many onions as the recipe calls for although it will not hurt if you do as they cook down and look so much less once cooked than they do when you are chopping them!
  • I use less bacon - here in the UK I use two packs or 16 slices. I have made it with the full 2 lbs in the past though and it is really nice!
  • I have been trying to cut back on sugar so I reduce the sugar in the recipe to 1 1/2 cups and it seems to not affect the outcome in the slightest.
  • I always use cider vinegar as that is what I was taught to use. Experimenting with other vinegars might be good or bad - not really sure!

And now for the recipe:
Betty's German Potato Salad (from my sister, Elizabeth Schmidt)

2 lbs of bacon, cut up and fried

4 pounds of potatoes (approximate)

2-4 tablespoons cornstarch (approximate)

Some water to mix with the cornstarch to make a paste

3-4 baseball sized onions, minced/chopped

1 cup cider vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 cup water


Fry bacon, set aside to drain on paper towels

Toss out the bacon fat, reserving about 1 tablespoon of bacon grease (fat) in the same pan it was cooked in

Mix cornstarch and water to form a thick syrup in the mug; not too thick, not too thin

Boil peeled potatoes until just done – not so done that they fall apart and not so undone that they are still hard – sort of al dente potatoes!

Drain immediately and set aside to cool


Fry minced onions in the bacon pan with grease until soft and translucent

Keep temp up on the pan so it is really hot and add the vinegar, stirring until it cleans off all of the lovely bacon bits from around the pan

Add sugar

Add water

Stir all of it together until it is boiling

Add cornstarch mixture, a little at a time, stirring all the time until it thickens

(it will continue to thicken as it cools so not too thick at this stage)

Once the mixture returns to a full boil, stir for a minimum of one full minute and remove from heat

Set aside

Combine it all together:

Slice potatoes or cube them – whichever you prefer

Place in large pot and cover with the sauce mixture

Stir well and enjoy!


1 comment:

LiLi M. said...

Hello Maggie!! How are you? Enjoying autumn and comfy food? DId your search for Holly went well? Are you home (I mean in England) again? I do hope everything is fine with you and your family!
Tomorrow at noon (cet) I will let the random number generator pick the winners of the pink ribbon bracelets. They weren't made by me, but they are official merchandizing to benefit the dutch pink ribbon society. You might win one, if not I'll contact you again, if that is allright with you. Hope you have a lovely Sunday!